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Collecting plant material in Madrid

Madrid will clone trees that have been lost to the snowstorm

Madrid will clone trees that have been lost to the snowstorm

Plant cloning is not a new technique and has existed since the dawn of agriculture

The recent passing of the Filomena storm brought unusual Siberian-type weather and heavy snowfalls to many parts of Spain, unaccustomed to such conditions even in the thick of winter. Among the many disruptions to daily life, such as traffic, it was reported that many trees have also fallen victim to the storm.

To that end, yesterday, 26 January, the Government of the Madrid Region informed the citizenry that it intends to replicate some of the important tree specimens that have been lost to the weather conditions through cloning in order to prevent their ultimate disappearance and to allow neighbourhoods to continue enjoying the trees that have adorned their streets for many decades.

This is a good time to introduce the concept of ‘plant heritage’

Although cloning has been a controversial topic in the recent past, especially when it refers to the possibility of replicating animals, organs and even people, the reality is that when it comes to plants this is a procedure that has existed for possibly thousands of years. It is basically a way of reproducing plants asexually, and it is done with cuttings from the original parent plant that are grown in a nursery until they reach maturity. This has been done to preserve good specimens, and it is even something that occurs naturally, for example with strawberries, through the so-called runners, which are copies of the original plant.

It turns out the Madrid Region already had a catalogue and a DNA bank which contains 283 singular trees from all over the region that have been considered exemplary and worth preserving and replicated in case they got damaged. These are different species, among which: yews, holm oaks, cork trees, pines, poplars and others.

This is a project that serves the “ecological restoration of the wild systems of our region damaged by the fallen snow, so that enough plant will be produced with which, in addition, to recover the green heritage of the region. Plant DNA can be collected for safekeeping and thus, preserved against possible adverse climatic events such as the one we have experienced,” in the words of Paloma Martín, the regional Environment Minister.

Some of the damaged trees already have cloned saplings because of this project and can thus be made immediately available for replanting. From others, genetic materials, such as seeds and branches, will be collected in order to be used for cloning in two nurseries located in El Escorial and La Isla (Arganda del Rey).

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